SWINGING A CONVERSATION TO SPIRITUAL THINGS
When we consider how to turn a conversation to spiritual things it provokes a number of questions. We will leave the matter of how it is to be done until last because that deals only with the "mechanism" that we use. If our motive is right and our goal is clear, to find the right mechanism will be much easier. However, if our motive is not right or the goal is not clear, it is so easy to become tied up in arguments or unprofitable debates and end up in "By-Path Meadow" or the "Slough of Despond".
Why should we? - the motive
First, why would we want to introduce spiritual things and why is it important? If we meet someone and begin a conversation about natural things, most people will be very comfortable with that and some will want to keep the conversation on those lines. But we, as Christians, ought not to be content with that. We should have the goal before us of introducing spiritual things into the conversation and I suggest three reasons for wanting to do that.
We are called to do it (Acts 1.8)
Here we have the Lords word to the disciples, "Ye shall be witnesses unto me", but the words extend beyond the disciples to include us. We are called to be witnesses. Here we have one of those commands for us to be something. We remember that at the end of each of the Gospels the Lord calls the disciples to be something: to be teachers (Mt 28.19,20), to be preachers (Mk 16.15), to be witnesses (Lk 24.48), to be brethren (Jn 20.17). The reason, therefore, why we ought to swing a conversation around to spiritual things is that it is our calling. We are called to be witnesses to others of the things of Christ.
We are commanded to do it (Mk 5.19)
We consider the words of the Lord Jesus to the demon possessed man of Gadara when he requested that he might follow and be with Jesus: "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee". I take it from this verse that we are not only called to be witnesses to the world generally, but also specifically we are commanded to go to our friends, neighbours, and fellow countrymen and tell them what great things God has done for us. Do not forget the end of the command: " and hath had compassion on thee", for that is very important. He has had compassion on us so we must have compassion on others also. The Lord Jesus stated, "Freely ye have received, freely give" (Mt 10.8). How often we are exhorted to deal with others as we have been dealt with: "Love one another, as I have loved you" (Jn 15.12); "Ye should do as I have done to you" (Jn 13.15); "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another" (1 Jn 4.11).
We are constrained to do it (2 Cor 5.14)
There are three occasions in the Scriptures where the phrase, "the love of Christ", is mentioned. In Romans it is something that we will never be separated from (Rom 8.35), in Ephesians it is something that we will spend eternity learning about (Eph 3.19), but in 2 Corinthians it is set before us as a motivating factor for reaching out to others. It forcibly reminds us that the thought and contemplation of His love ought to fill us with desire, energy, compassion, and love for those for whom Christ died. This is our motive and we are called, commanded, and constrained to introduce spiritual things to our friends and neighbours.
What is it that we are to introduce?
If we are to swing a conversation around to spiritual things it is important to have a clear goal. If we do not have such a goal we will not be in control of the conversation nor be confident in it. Moreover, we will not be able to drive the conversation towards spiritual things unless we know what we are seeking to achieve.
Thankfully, there are spiritual principles that I believe we can follow to enable us to control the swing and give us confidence in sharing our faith with others. I know one man who uses what he terms, "RCCR - Relate, Create, Convict, and Reveal", based on John 4.
Again there are a number who use the WDJD principle to guide a conversation by asking questions based around those four letters.
Depend on the Spirit
Let us consider another principle based on the teaching of John 16.7-14. One of the greatest hindrances to our development in the area of personal witness is that of fear. Part of our motivational system is the recognising of responsibility: witnessing is something, as we have seen, that we are commanded to do. Many, no doubt, have the desire to begin to share the gospel with others, but there are few who do not feel the grip of fear at the thought of doing it. Some very practical advice here will be helpful because one of the greatest hindrances to progress and development in this area is fear: it can paralyse us completely.
I draw your attention to John 16. Much of the upper room ministry, of which this forms a part, was spoken specifically to address the fears of the disciples, commencing with the words in 14.1, "Let not your heart be troubled", and ending in 16.33 with, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world". This is surely a vision worth keeping before the soul: Christ himself, having overcome the world. Tempted in all points as we are, sin apart, yet He overcame the world and has left us an example to follow His steps (1 Pet 2.21).
You will never be alone
Let us examine John 16.7-14. I believe that there is a great deal in these words of the Lord Jesus to provide strength and hope, which is exactly what the disciples would need. Notice that He had already begun to assure them in 14.16-18 that they would never be alone: "I will not leave you comfortless"; in other words, "You will never be alone". Sometimes some of our greatest fears are those which come from a sense of having to carry on without support. Christ assures his disciples that this will never happen. Now look at what is said in 16.13: "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come ". The Lord is assuring them of His continual abiding presence with them through the Holy Spirit. They were thinking that He was going away, but He reassures them and allays their fears with the promise that they would never be alone. They would never be out of His presence. The presence, the power, the promise, and the provision of the Spirit of God would ensure that. His words: "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you he will shew you He shall glorify me", must have given strength to the disciples. What a wonderful provision we have as Christians; the Holy Spirit of God indwells us so that we are never alone and we have the promise, "He will guide you into all truth". Observe what the Lord says in 15.26-27: "He shall testify of me: And ye also shall bear witness". Our ability to witness is directly linked to the witness of the Spirit.
To be continued.